Wednesday, July 20, 2016


I’m an extrovert so when I am alone for several hours without being able to process verbally I start to drive myself crazy. My thoughts spin around in my head with nowhere to go and I get tired of myself really fast.

The last two mornings have been ridiculous. Little dumb things … For example, I dropped my phone six times when i was getting ready to leave the house on Monday morning. Yes, six. I counted because it was so annoying. I was trying to pack and couldn’t find stuff. One of the items I dropped my phone I reached down to pick it up and pulled something in my back, causing me pain all day. I got the lace on my shawl caught on the bathroom door hook at the convenience store where I stopped for donuts that actually didn’t have donuts…. WHAT?? I thought this was Krispy Kreme territory….

Then yesterday morning, I stepped on a tiny piece of glass that Dominyk didn’t sweep up when he broke my blender the last time we were in Brookneal, and I couldn’t find a couple things I needed, and my back was still hurting, and and and and… see? I was just pathetic. My never ending internal loop of whining was driving me crazy.

In addition to all of the petty junk was the heavy stuff that has been weighing on me for weeks interweaving itself with the broken record of internal whining. You have only had to read a couple paragraphs of it… but in my head it was going on forever.... and I was going crazy!

When I finally got out to the van to drive to Lynchburg, I knew that there was only answer to the whiny loop — Christian music. So I turned it on and the first song that I heard started with:

This is what we’re here for.

And I immediately knew that the song was not going to say.

So I want to share with you some answers to the question "What am I NOT here for?"

1) I am not here to control the world, fix things, or make sure that everyone is OK everywhere. That’s God’s job. (OK, OK, I know that this is a constant theme for me).

2) I am not here to focus on the distractions. Another theme for me, but there are so many ways that our focus can be diverted to other things that really aren’t the center of what we are called to do.

3) I am not here to whine!!

4) I am not here to be ruled by discouragement, doubt, or anxiety. I am victorious in Christ.

5) I am not here to worry about the future or dwell on the past.

And as the song went on I was reminded of why I am here… and suddenly the whine loop was replaced by these words that stuck in my head all day. A much better alternative!

This is what we're here for.
To show the world how You love it.
This is what we're made for.
To lay it all down like You did.
When we feel useless, You still use us.
Help us not forget.
This is what we're here for.
This is what we're here for.

Listen to it with me. I think you’ll like it.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Discovering your White Hot Why

Last year at Bill Hybel's leadership summit he talked about the 5 intangibles of leadership. He borrows from Simon Sinek's Ted Talk where he talks about being driven by your "why." He suggests that every leader should know and be driven by their "white hot why."

As you can tell by reading between the lines, my professional life has not been easy the past six months. In fact, you wouldn't even have to read between the lines but simply read my blog and you would know. Even though I am unable to give details, let me tell you... this is like nothing else I've ever been through. And I'm no stranger to difficult situations (those of you who read this blog between 2006 and 2012 know that we have lived through a LOT of challenges.

This past week Bart and the boys and I joined the residents of Patrick Henry Boys and Girls Homes for their annual beach trip. We were in Outer Banks, NC ... one of the most beautiful spots on earth. We spent a day with all the residents, and then three days and three nights with the girls. I needed it, desperately, to clear my head and to hang out with the kids. Because they are my white hot why.

As "Chief Program Officer" I am several steps away from direct service to our kids, and sometimes I get caught up in personnel issues, spreadsheets, big picture decision making, and all the other things that senior management is thrown into in a given day. The more I feel myself drowning in that, the more I forget why I do it.

This week I came face to face with my "White Hot Why" as I did life with these kids. We laughed a lot. I watched them interact. I watched their house parents deal patiently with them. I observed them play together and work together to get things done like packing vans and keeping rooms clean. I heard snippets of their stories.

Literally on my way back before I even got home, I was smacked in the face with more distracting stuff, but I am not going to let it sway me because I was reminded that I am driven by this "white hot why." God didn't call me hear to deal with spreadsheets, and monthly reports, and employee performance evaluations.. even though that is part of what I do. He called me here to make sure that these beautiful lives were being cared for to the best of our ability.

In my past jobs, the kids and families that we worked with have always been that "why" for me. In our families lives my kids and grandkids have been my "white hot why" for everything we've done.

What about you? What burns inside you, driving you to do and be your best? What is your purpose? In addition to serving Jesus, to the best of our ability, we each need that "why" that drives our lives. If we have it, we can rise above ANYTHING that comes our way.

If you don't have one, I'm going to pray that God reveals to you why you are where you are. I'm asking Him right now to instill in you a "why" that burns so hot and bright inside you that it carries you through whatever each day brings.

Thanks, PHBGH kids for letting me live life with you and for being the white hot why that moves me through each day.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Relevant Revelation

Yesterday my husband Bart and I were talking about his current love affair….

with the writings of Karl Barth (pronounced Bart)

I know, I know, we’re weird.

He has begun reading Barth’s Church Dogmatics — a 9 volume, 6 MILLION word theological work and it is Bart’ goal to read it all. Now that’s some weird bucket list if you ask me.

But I digress.

So we were discussing Barth’s idea of the threefold Word of God. In other words, preaching (or proclamation), scripture, and revelation are considered to be three different, yet unified forms of the Word of God. The idea is that God’s word is written, it is proclaimed (in preaching), and that God reveals HIs word to us personally in daily revelations of his truth.

I pointed out to Bart (not Karl, he died five years after I was born, but my husband Bart) that this is what music does for me. It is a revelation of God’s word. I also pointed out that God’s word…. both in Scripture and in song) is always relevant. A song, or a Bible verse, can means something to me very profoundly in one situation and then years or decade later, in a completely different situation where I am a different age, a more mature person, in a different place, it still means something profound. God’s revelation is relevant every day.

We looked up the etymology of the words revelation and relevant and lo and behold they come from the same Latin word. So it makes sense then, that when God’s word is revealed, it is relevant. 24/7/365.

This song is one that clearly spoke to me in 1992.

It spoke to me again today.

I hope it speaks to you.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

The Circle of Life 2.0

Last night was wonderful. I want to tell you all about it, but it involves a lot of background.

From 1992 to 1994 I lived in the country of Mexico as a short-term missionary. The first year I was there, I spent time daily with an amazing family that has impacted my life ever since.

Ben, Faith and their four kids were my lifeline that first year as I was learning Spanish and getting acclimated to a new culture. I hung out with them often. Faith was 34 at the time I moved there and Ben was ancient (Ben has always been ancient). Even though Faith was only six years older than I, she became my mentor and I hung on her every word (even though she probably didn't know that). Her infectious laugh, the way she would say "Bless" after something that she heard that she found endearing, and her ability to see humor in lots of things was such a blessing to me.

Fast forward 20 years and some of my kids and I visited Ben and Faith and some of their children several times. When we went in November of 2011 I posted this first Circle of Life post. It focusing on the youngest, Benji, who was only three when I moved there.

Below is a picture of the three girls who look EXACTLY like I remember them. I even remember the school uniforms.

This is a picture of the four of them a year ago that I stole off someone's Facebook. :-)

And if you want to see more pictures or hear more about the family, you can click here to hear about my visit in 2009

So there is your background. The past several times that we have visited Ben and Faith and the kids, the oldest, Lindsey has not been home so I hadn't seen her since 1995 when Bart and I visited them in Marion, Indiana. It was on that trip that Bart decided to marry me -- and he said that if I had such fine people as this family who loved me, I must be pretty awesome myself.

When we moved to Virginia for some reason I noticed on Facebook that Lindsey and her husband were living a little over an hour from here and we have been trying to set up a visit. We had to cancel once, but last night, we showed up and were greeted by these four adorable kids.

Lindsey introduced us to her husband Nate who we immediately liked.

It was a very surreal night. Lindsey is SO much like her mom. She laughs just likes her. She cooks food that's just as good as her (our favorite tacos from a taco stand in Mexico). She says "bless." She has a gentle, nurturing spirit and quietly guides her children, speaking to them in Spanish, just like her mother did. Lindsey's kids are almost the same age as she and her siblings were when I did life with them in 1992-93.

Lindsey is wise like her mom too, and I found myself back in time, looking up to and listening to her wisdom, just like I was 28 again. As I left I realized that i'm actually now 52, and I'm old enough to be Lindsey's mom, but I had been taken back in time.

Our youngest son, and Lindsey's oldest, hung out together. And their youngest, who is named Isaac, is nearly the same age as our grandson Isaac. This is the only picture i took last night, but Nate sure had fun giving this much ice cream to Isaac ... and Isaac enjoyed picking fun at his mom by pretending he was going to eat it all.

So there we were... all the ways our lives are interwoven staring me in the face. The rich history of relationships bound together over the year's by Christ's love. Memories shared of times together. Basking in the memories of -- and in the realities of -- living life with amazing people. And in the middle of all this, when Nate learned that he and I had experienced similar work challenges lately, he stopped us all in the middle of the conversation to pray for me.

It was profound. It was powerful. It was the essence of what Christian community looks like.

And it transformed my crappy week into a good one, all in three hours.

Thanks, Nate and Lindsey... Thanks, Ben and Faith. Thanks Virginia, Danielle, and Benji. And most importantly, thank you God.

Friday, July 08, 2016

Does Grace Really Win Every Time?

I'm not going to lie. Yesterday was a hard day. A really hard day. In fact, when I got to the cardiologist for an echocardiogram that he ordered, my blood pressure was higher than it had ever been in my whole life. So high that I couldn't get the echocardiogram done and have to go back this morning. And high blood pressure has never been an issue for me. I guess stress does affect it. Ugh.

Anyway, yesterday I was on the road for almost three hours and had a few small spurt trips in between.

And five times in those three hours, when I turned the radio on, the same song was playing. It appears that Matthew West, or possibly God, was determined that I receive the message multiple times that "Grace Wins Every Time."

So as I was up half the night hashing and rehashing my day, I kept asking myself, "Self, does grace really win every time?" because it sure doesn't feel like it. And then I started thinking about what we think winning looks like and realized that we may have it wrong.

So in the midst of my sleeplessness, I came up with three ideas.

1. I realized what winning does not look like:

Winning does not mean that people around you will understand you when you attempt to err on the side of grace. It doesn't mean that they will not criticize you.

Winning does not mean that the person receiving the grace will change immediately... or maybe ever.

Winning does not mean that the situation will change, that things will get easier, that just because we are being gracious things will go our way.

I have come to realize that grace, like forgiveness, is more about the one giving grace than the one receiving it. It's about knowing that I have loved well (or loved hard -- thanks Amanda for that great phrase) to the best of my ability. It is about not harboring resentment and having a clean conscious that I've done what I thought was best. It's about being able to have loving thoughts towards people who have not acted lovingly towards me and realizing that there is a reason they are the way they are. It's about offering forgiveness and grace to people who aren't sorry and haven't asked for forgiveness.

I realize that in being this vulnerable I am opening myself up to criticism, and that one criticism might be that I am bragging that I have some how "arrived" and consider myself better than others. It's not the case. I struggle daily to believe the best in people, to err on the side of grace, to press forward and live by the principles that I see God calling us to in Scripture.

Do I fail? Oh yes. But my intentions are always to offer grace.

2. I used to tell my kids that something when they were younger. I used to say, "It's not over until the fat lady sings. Have you heard me sing?" So one other thought is that we may be premature in accessing when the game is over. If the game's not over, we don't know whether or not grace has won. So my guess is that when the game is finally over, it will be grace that is the obvious winner.

3. Finally, I asked myself, if grace grace, doesn't win, what does? What is the opposite of grace? So I looked up antonyms of grace and a few are indecency, imbalance, ignorance thoughtlessness, ugliness, crudeness, rudeness, mercilessness. Or, in biblical terms, if we don't offer grace we offer judgment, condemnation, vengeance.... so I don't know about you, but I don't like the idea of any of those things winning.

At the end of my personal icky day, I found out that the state of MN had a really bad day. I found out that our country had a bad day. And I had to acknowledge that grace sure beats hatred, violence, racism, retribution... any of the things that the news reported to us last evening.

So after a couple hours of sleeplessness I have concluded that grace does indeed win every time. We may have the wrong idea what it means to win, but it's still grace. It may not feel like it yet, but it isn't over. And grace sure beats the antithesis of grace, whatever way you look at it.

I want to close with one of my favorite quotes from Mother Teresa:

People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Be good anyway.

Honesty and frankness will make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People need help, but may attack you if you try to help them.
Help them anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

There are some songs you just shouldn't sing

In February of 2014 I fell in love with the song “Oceans.” I sang it. With sincerity. And in March of that year something horrible happened at work that led to six very difficult months. In September of that year I blogged about that.

On May 31st I sent the youtube of the song "Keep Making Me" to my staff.

It starts like this….

Make me broken
So I can be healed

and goes on to say
Make me empty
So I can be filled

and later says
Make me lonely
So I can be Yours

I sang that song on March 31st and since then God has been continually breaking me. Painful, some of the hardest stuff I’ve ever been through in my life (and I’ve been through some stuff!). So I got to thinking this morning, that sometimes there are songs you just shouldn’t sing, because God does hear and answer our prayers... even if they are hidden inside the latest greatest CCM top 40 song.

I didn’t really want to be broken. I wanted to be strong, and right, and proud, and confident, and in control. I wanted to be victorious and rejoice in my progress.

But over the past three months, I have been broken. I have felt empty. I have been lonely. And I am counting on the fact that God heard the “’tils” in the song.

The ‘tils are these:

‘Til You are my one desire
‘Til You are my one true love
‘Til You are my breath, my everything
Lord, please keep making me

And I am praying that I am there. At least for this go around. That HE has become my one desire, my one true love, my breath, my everything.

You may have heard me say in the past that I strive to be a “both ... and” person, instead of an “either ... or” person.

And yesterday I found myself singing this song…. on one of the toughest days I can remember in a long time.

“I am free to run, I am free to dance.” and I thought “Where did that come from?????”

And then I realized that we can be broken….. and free to dance.

We can be lonely … and free to live for Jesus

We can be empty …. and free to run.…. .all at the same time.

So today I share this song with you… Remember that you are free… not just on the days when you are feeling great and there isn’t a cloud in the sky — but on the darkest days of your life.


Friday, July 01, 2016

We have News!

So today we spent three hours having our first home study visit for Foster Care. Yes, we want to do it again. You may ask why.

There is only one reason.

We have space and kids need homes and we want to practice pure religion (James 1:27).

For us it really isn't about anything other than that.

I know there are people who are saying, "Haven't you done enough?" What's enough when there are 397,122 kids in foster care in this country?

There are over 17,000 churches in Virginia. There are 2073 kids available for adoption. That statistics pushes me past the line of crazy. In Minnesota there were half as many kids available and only a third of the number of churches and that bugged me. If you know me at all you know that I am so incredibly passionate about kids having families that you recognize why these statistics push me over the edge.

This map shows the number of churches and the number of available children in each state. We have to do better.

Aren't we busy enough? Well yeah, we're busy. But we aren't as busy as we have been in the past. We have time for a couple more.

What kinds of kids you ask? Well, boys for one. Bart will be here without me here a few days a week so it doesn't make sense to do girls. And not a lot of them. Probably no more than 4 more. Probably just one or two -- only more if it's a sib group. And nobody that isn't in school yet. And nobody that's legally free. Adopting again isn't our plan.

OK, so I'm not stupid. I know that there may be a kid that ends up legally free that we cannot resist, but in order to be fair to them they better be older than 14 or 15. If we fall in love younger kids and I have to do puberty again I'm going to be very unhappy with myself.

So we want teenage boys, and if that's what you want, that's what you'll get.

I know, I know. We plan, God laughs.

But I'm up for the ride... whatever it looks like. So is Bart. We love our crazy adventure called life.

We also want to recruit others from our church to do respite care or be foster parents -- we want to go through this together, the way that churches should do. Who knows, maybe we can start a trend in Danville. If you go to our church watch out!

So we have a stack of paperwork to fill out. We have finished our first visit. We have been fingerprinted. My training has been waived (probably should be since I have LED the training multiple multiple times). We need two more visits. She needs to update our study. It will be a while.

But I loved foster care and hated giving it up. I love the idea that life can change -- that any given day I can wake up with one number of kids in my home, and go to bed with a different number. We had to stop doing foster care after only 3 years because we had adopted too many kids to get licensed, so I'm excited about that.

And one more question you might be asking.... "What if your adult kids decide to move down there and need a place to live?"

Well as you can imagine, we have a plan for that. We are going to either rent or buy a home for them to live in when they need a place, so that we can care for them, and provide them support, without having to listen to them argue with each other or watch them stare at their phones for hours on end (not that any of US do that, right?). And they will keep their stuff -- their dishes, their laundry etc. at their house so that it doesn't end up all over ours.

I like the plan. Some of our kids may end up back here in our house. Some might end up in this town with us but not in this house. And we will continue to help children who need a family.

And finally, even though it isn't our motivation, I hope that people will look at imperfect me and pretty close to perfect Bart, and say, "hey, if they can do it again, we can do it for the first time." Because for the sake of the kids I've been recruiting people to do this for decades...

Wanna join us?

LOST and the Dark Cloud

For some insane reason a few months ago I decided I had missed out on pop culture by never having watched the series “Lost” and committed myself to 117 episodes of watching people bleed and get punched. But I did it. I watched the last episode last night.

If you have not watched it, you won’t know what the evil cloud is, but it’s kind of like a tornado — it’s black — and it represents evil. Sometimes they called it the smoke monster.

Many times in the last six months I have felt like that cloud is swirling around our campus. The lives of beautiful children are in the balance and there is a fight for their very souls being waged here. Sometimes it’s almost palpable.

This last week in particular I feel like I am standing right in the middle of the swirl. I have felt like the smoke monster has been after me. Lots of my kids are doing very poorly right now and its been a burden. There are work situations afloat that are difficult.

But in the middle of all of this I have to remind myself that God is the one in control, not me (do you see a constant theme here in my blogs lately) and that HE is the one who can fix things….

So when I’m standing feeling that evil cloud heading my way, I do two things.

1 — I go somewhere to spend even a few minutes with one of our residents. Yesterday I visited camp to see the ones in the picture below. I had a great time visiting with the camp director, meeting his wife, and getting hugs from a couple of these little guys. (Thanks for letting me steal your picture without permission, Bambi).

Or if it’s a family crisis, I go to Facebook or my phone and look at pictures of my grandkids. (Silas turned three and had a toy story party. The fact that Andy is written on his foot makes me love his mother more than ever and makes me smile every time I look at this). Reminding myself of the people in my family who are doing well grounds me and helps me to realize what God is calling me to. (Thanks for letting me steal your pictures without permission Christy).

2. I remind myself of this song.